“Pain is not wrong. Reacting to pain as wrong initiates the trance of unworthiness. The moment we believe something is wrong, our world shrinks and we lose ourselves in the effort to combat the pain.” Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
Are you in pain? Most of us have felt the misery of pain. The suffering of pain. We all have felt the response that our brains assign when something in life causes pain. Whether it is physical, mental or emotional the depths of pain has been designated by society as negative. Society says that when we are in pain, it is a negative or bad experience that shifts everything within is.
What if there was another response? What if, while you cannot change the pain, you could in fact change the brain’s response to the pain?
Radical acceptance of pain can transform the brain’s response from an assignment of suffering to an experience of spiritual expansion. How? Radical acceptance is to fully embrace the experience that is happening in the moment. Embracing the experience without judgement or assignment of positive or negative. The moment you begin to embrace the experience, your brain transform the suffering to acceptance. This immediately stops the brain from going into the flight or fight mode.
Pain – emotional, mental or physical creates an overwhelming negative effect on your entire being. Radical acceptance, the embracing of the pain, with the mindfulness that the pain is necessary. Pain is not negative. Pain is necessary. When our body is in physical pain, our brain is telling us that something needs our attention. The more intense the pain, the more urgent the need of attention is. Without the pain, our brain could not tell us that something is wrong.
When emotional or mental pain occurs, our brain is telling us that something within our spirit needs our attention; the same as when our body is in physical pain. Radical acceptance is first looking to the cause of the pain and giving it our attention. Embracing the pain as a sign post that our brain is allowing us to be conscious of what is occurring at the moment allows us to have more energy to address the situation.
The difficultly comes not in the moment the pain erupts, but in the times following. We become drained and depleted after long periods of pain and suffering. We become tired and begin to feel hopeless to get out of the suffering. Shifting to the conscious radical acceptance of the pain allows the brain to step out of the hopeless feeling in order to have more energy to focus on the solution. When we are in an extended periods of pain a cycle begins replaying over and over again. A cycle of pain, emotional pain thinking it will never end. It becomes difficult to break the cycle. It is uncomfortable. It can fill you with anxiety and intense fear. The only way to break the cycle is to shift the mindset from a negative emotional response.
Embracing the pain, radically accepting it as a necessary emotional response, consciously breaks the emotional cycle. The response of accepting rather than struggling does not mean in any way that you like or accept the situation. Contrary, it is an accepting of the present moment only – of what is existing in the moment, of what needs your immediate attention, and nothing more.
By this embracing of the pain, we are doing exactly what the brain is trying to direct us to do. Address the cause of the pain. This will not stop the pain, but it will give us more energy to seek out a solution to the pain. Even if that solution is simply to begin a healing process of the heart.
Presence in the moment begins the embracing process. As you experience pain – anger, fear, anxiety, and sadness – take a deep breath and simply feel the sensations your brain is sending you. Where are you experiencing the pain? Where is the physical response to the pain? Is it simply inward pain or is it manifesting externally?
Notice where the thoughts go as you breathe deeply; as this trail of thoughts begins, rather than fight them, simply allow. Breathing deeply with each thought. Don’t push any thought away.
After a few moments of fully embracing the pain, of experiencing the pain, and of accepting the pain, release it fully into the moment allowing the brain to free itself. This embracing of the pain releases the need to change or control the pain. It is letting go of the need to fix the situation. This radical acceptance is a conscious decision of knowing our body, mind, and soul is trying to get our attention. Once we embrace the pain through radical acceptance, we free up the energy to see the cause and thus find a real solution.
Radical acceptance is consciously and mindfully being present to embrace all of life